The gentle glow of candlelight is something that evokes emotion in many of us. We hold candlelight vigils, light them in places of worship, and decorate our homes with them. Many of us keep candles in our homes because they provide ambiance and beauty that cannot be matched by even the most realistic of fake flames. But it can be ruined when your candle produces black smoke.
Candles should not produce black smoke, also known as soot. The type of candle you buy, how it is maintained, and how it was crafted all play a part in producing soot. Paraffin wax produces more black smoke than vegetable waxes. If you don't trim the wick, soot is likely to form. Certain fragrances, dyes, and other candle additives can also cause your candle to smoke.
If you love candles but don't love billowing black smoke, soot streaked walls, and a chemical scent that isn't the Christmas pine that the candle promised, you're not alone. The good news is that although candles can produce black smoke, it's not necessarily normal. Not all candles are created equal. Let's take a look now at what makes a candle smoke and why.
The type of candle wax burning plays a part in whether a candle produces black smoke. The most likely culprit behind black smoking candles is paraffin wax. Paraffin is a wax made from petroleum, which is, in turn, made from fossil fuels.
Paraffin candles are the most common type of candle wax because it is relatively cheap, easy to color, and holds scent well. If you purchased your candle from a grocery store, chances are it's a paraffin wax candle.
While paraffin is practical in that it's cost-efficient and easy to handle, it isn't ideal for your health or your home. Paraffin wax is known for the plumes of chemicals that it spews into the air when it is lit, many of which are carcinogenic.
Those same chemicals lead to soot on your walls and the black smoke you see coming from the candle. Paraffin wax is the most likely of all the different common candle types to issue black smoke, and also the most likely to damage your home.
Fortunately, paraffin isn't the only type of candle wax out there. Candle waxes made of vegetable oils seldom put out black smoke. High-quality waxes include soy and coconut wax.
These gentle waxes have a low melting point, which means they turn to liquid faster than other candle types. They also burn very cleanly and do not put out toxic chemicals when heated up. This means less weird chemical smell, less soot on the wall, and less smoke.
Although wax is the most common culprit, it isn't the only one. Let's look at a few of the other problems.
The wick can also cause your candle to smoke. If you've ever read instructions on a candle, chances are you've been told you need to keep your wick trimmed. There's a good reason for this. When a candle is lit, the heat from the fire melts the wax. The wax is then drawn up through the wick to the flame, feeding it. If the candle wick is too long, the liquid takes longer to travel, and problems can arise.
Wicks that are too long can mushroom at the top, cause the flame to burn erratically, and result in smoke as the flame struggles to stay lit. This can also cause carbon soot to streak your walls, so it's best to keep on this.
Keep your candle wick trimmed to 1/4". The short candlewick will not only benefit you by helping the candle to burn cleanly, the flame will also look more appealing with a steady flicker instead of the wild behavior of an improperly trimmed wick.
Our wooden wick candles are clean-burning and produce no black smoke when maintained.
Another common cause of black smoke is a draft. A candle is a delicate balance of fuel, oxygen, and the wick, which supplies that oxygen. When one of these is thrown out of balance, it can cause the candle to smoke or struggle. In the case of drafts, the candle is vulnerable to gusts of wind and can struggle to burn when constantly under a current.
If your candle flame seems to flicker constantly, it may be a draft causing the problem. Turn your ceiling fan off, close the windows, or move the candle to a place where it has some protection from wind. If these things help, you'll know that an air current is the problem.
Drafts can be a tricky one to detect because they aren't always obvious. It could be that a seal in your window has broken, or there is a gap between the door and the floor letting cold air in from outside. A small puff of wind may not be noticeable to you, but it can still make your candle struggle. This is why it's essential to try moving your candle around even if the apparent drafts are gone. It may surprise you where the wind is coming from.
If the candle is still smoking and it isn't any of the above problems, something else is to blame.
Try Different Colors/Scents
One of the final possible problems is the scent or the color of the candle. The additives in a candle can affect its ability to burn.
Most candles aren't unscented. There's often a lot more to it than that, such as scent to make it more attractive, and color to decorate your home. Scent and color are often the main reasons we choose a particular candle over another. When it's Christmas time, a fun and festive cinnamon-scented candle can brighten the mood.
We love scents and colors, and these aren't things you need to avoid if you want a smoke-free candle. You may need to test out different brands or choose a higher quality candle if you think this may be the problem.
Before suspecting the scent or the color, you may want to test all the other points on this list first. If the candle is not made out of paraffin, it has a carefully trimmed wick, and it is out of drafts, the color or scent likely is to blame.
The scent tends to be the culprit when the candle is very heavily scented. It is usually better able to maintain a good clean burn because it doesn't need quite so much to have a pleasant scent that fills the room. Color can also be a problem, especially if the candle is scent-free but heavily dyed.
While the bad news is your candle will probably continue to smoke if it is the scent or color, the good news is you can avoid this problem in the future by choosing your next candle more carefully.
Look for a high-quality candle made out of natural wax. If it's available, try to get a small version of that candle first so you can test it and see how it burns for you. If it burns well, you can buy a larger version knowing that this one was the right choice.
Quality Candles Well Maintained Don't Smoke
A good quality candle made of natural wax seldom smokes, and the cause can often come down to maintenance. If you keep your wick short, avoid drafts, and use a high-quality candle, black-streaked walls and dirty carpets don't have to be a part of your candle experience.
You may also discover more joy from a clean-burning candle than just avoiding black smoke and staining in your home. High-quality candles have other benefits, such as scent that lasts continuously and fills the room. If you've only used paraffin wax candles, you may think fresh scents giving way to unpleasant burnt smells is just part of owning a candle. That is until you've tried a coconut or soy wax candle.